Hiwa Ahmedy arrived early to meet me at the Kurdish Community Centre. He was eager to tell his story. Hiwa is a 30-year-old Iranian Kurd who’s lived in Sheffield for ten months. The majority of Kurds in Sheffield originate from Iraq, but Hiwa, like other Kurds, see themselves firstly as Kurdish whether they were born in Iraq, Iran, Turkey or Syria.
He spoke to me via Ari Moustafa, Chair of the Kurdish Community Centre, who translated. Hiwa was a taxi driver in Iran and his chatty manner seemed at odds with the grave story he was about to tell me. He explained that he left Iran after he was imprisoned and tortured because of his involvement with the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran. He crossed the mountains into Iraq where he lived for 13 years, surviving two attempts on his life by the pursuing Iranian authorities. His sister was hanged for her political activity.
No human rights
Why did he come to the UK? “Before we heard many things about England, about human rights. Unfortunately when I arrived here I didn’t see anything like that. All I heard before was untrue and there’s no human rights here”. After three months, the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) stopped all support to him. He still doesn’t know why and without an expensive solicitor it is impossible to challenge this decision. Like other asylum seekers Hiwa does not have the right to work. So how did he live? “Kurdish people give me food for the day” and his home for the last six months has been a derelict garage “to hide from the rain and cold”.
“If I go back, they kill me”
Hiwa has been assessed at the Northern General Hospital and needs a major operation for a stomach problem. He coughed and held his stomach while he spoke: living rough has worsened his condition. But he can’t get medical attention while he has no address and he can’t get NASS accommodation without agreeing to return voluntarily to Iran. He explained that he would “love to go back to Iran” where his family live but “they (the Iranian authorities) know my name in my area and if I go back, they kill me”.
Despite his situation Hiwa is dignified and generous: “There are many other cases like me,” he stressed. What can we do to help? Hiwa urged people to write to the Home Office, their MP and to demonstrate against this enforced poverty. “Do they think we are not human?”
by Stuart Crosthwaite